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Singapore bans job promise for students

Singapore’s Ministry of Education is to issue new advertising rules for private education institutions prohibiting them from using promises of employment to attract international students. Singapore is a major education hub, welcoming more than 75,000 international students in 2010, but only permits authorised students at selected universities to work part time during term time.

Institutions will have to provide the source for any marketing claims they make about their services

Private operators, such as pathways and private degree-awarding colleges, that try to entice international students with the promise of salaries or allowances for work placements will face challenges under the new rules. “For courses with a work attachment component, the PEI is required to clearly state that job attachment for international students is not guaranteed and will be subject to approval,” state the rules.

Institutions will also be prevented from making general claims that their qualifications will be recognised by employers or local or foreign education institutions.

Private providers have welcomed the rules, which take effect from July 9, but said they hoped for flexibility in applying them to allow a level playing field in an internationally competitive market. They face stiff fines and imprisonment for up to six months under Singapore’s Private Education Act if they fail to comply with the rules.

Institutions will also have to substantiate potentially misleading terminology in brochures and other marketing channels, such as “No. 1” and “100% student satisfaction”. Industry watchdog the Council for Private Education (CPE), which will oversee the rules, will also have the right to contact students or parents quoted in testimonials to make sure their views are accurate.

G M Kwang, managing director at the Newcastle School of Management’s Singapore campus, said his institution “sticks to the facts and verifies them” before publishing marketing materials. However, he said slogans such as “one of the best” were commonplace in the industry and should be accepted.

“Our aim is to ensure that students and prospective students are given accurate information upon which they can then make informed decisions.”

CPE Chief Executive Officer Henry Heng said: “Ultimately, our aim is to ensure that students and prospective students are given accurate information upon which they can then make informed decisions.”

After setting targets to boost international numbers, Singapore made a U-turn last year, announcing it wanted to reduce the proportion of foreign students in the country from 18% to 15% by 2015. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loon said universities had to strike a balance between local and overseas recruitment, which meant “staying open to, yet controlling, foreign student numbers.”

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